The early days of coffee culture in Abyssinia and Arabia—Coffee cultivation in general—Soil, climate, rainfall, altitude, propagation, preparing the plantation, shade and wind breaks, fertilizing, pruning, catch crops, pests, and diseases—How coffee is grown around the world—Cultivation in all the principal producing countries
For the beginnings of coffee culture we must go back to the Arabian colony of Harar in Abyssinia, for here it was, about the fifteenth century, that the Arabs, having found the plant growing wild in the Abyssinian highlands, first gave it intensive cultivation. The complete story of the early cultivation of coffee in the old and new worlds is told in chapter II, which deals with the history of the propagation of the coffee plant.
La Roque was the first to tell how the plant was cultivated and the berries prepared for market in Arabia, where it was brought from Abyssinia.
The Arabs raised it from seed grown in nurseries, transplanting it to plantations laid out in the foot-hills of the mountains, to which they conducted the mountain streams by ingeniously constructed small channels to water the roots. They built trenches three feet wide and five feet deep, lining them with pebbles to cause the water to sink deep into the earth with which the trenches were filled, to preserve the moisture from too rapid evaporation. These were so constructed that the water could be turned off into other channels when the fruit began to ripen. In plantations exposed to the south, a kind of poplar tree was planted along the trenches to supply needful shade.
La Roque noted that the coffee trees in Yemen were planted in lines, like the apple trees in Normandy; and that when they were much exposed to the sun, the shade poplars were regularly introduced between the rows.
Such cultivation as the plant received in early Abyssinia and Arabia was crude and primitive at best. Throughout the intervening centuries, there has been little improvement in Yemen; but modern cultural methods obtain in the Harar district in Abyssinia.
Like the Arabs in Yemen, the Harari cultivated in small gardens, employing the same ingenious system of irrigation from mountain springs to water the roots of the plants at least once a week during the dry season. In Yemen and in Abyssinia the ripened berries were sun-dried on beaten-earth barbecues.
The European planters who carried the cultivation of the bean to the Far East and to America followed the best Arabian practise, changing, and sometimes improving it, in order to adapt it to local conditions.
Coffee Cultivation in General
Today the commercial growers of coffee on a large scale practise intensive cultivation methods, giving the same care to preparing their plantations and maintaining their trees as do other growers of grains and fruits. As in the more advanced methods of arboriculture, every effort is made to obtain the maximum production of quality coffee consistent with the smallest outlay of money and labor. Experimental stations in various parts of the world are constantly working to improve methods and[Pg 198] products, and to develop types that will resist disease and adverse climatic conditions.
While cultivation methods in the different producing countries vary in detail of practise, the principles are unchanging. Where methods do differ, it is owing principally to local economic conditions, such as the supply and cost of labor, machinery, fertilizers, and similar essential factors.
Soil. Rocky ground that pulverizes easily—and, if possible, of volcanic origin—is best for coffee; also, soil rich in decomposed mold. In Brazil the best soil is known as terra roxa, a topsoil of red clay three or four feet thick with a gravel subsoil.
Climate. The natural habitat of the coffee tree (all species) is tropical Africa, where the climate is hot and humid, and the soil rich and moist, yet sufficiently friable to furnish well drained seed beds. These conditions must be approximated when the tree is grown in other countries. Because the trees and fruit generally can not withstand frost, they are restricted to regions where the mean annual temperature is about 70° F., with an average minimum about 55°, and an average maximum of about 80°. Where grown in regions subject to more or less frost, as in the northernmost parts of Brazil's coffee-producing district, which lie almost within the south temperate zone, the coffee trees are sometimes frosted, as was the case in 1918, when about forty percent of the São Paulo crop and trees suffered.
Generally speaking, the most suitable climate for coffee is a temperate one within the tropics; however, it has been successfully cultivated between latitudes 28° north and 38° south.
Rainfall. Although able to grow satisfactorily only on well drained land, the coffee tree requires an abundance of water, about seventy inches of rainfall annually, and must have it supplied evenly throughout the year. Prolonged droughts are fatal; while, on the other hand, too great a supply of water tends to develop the wood of the tree at the expense of the flowers and fruit, especially in low-lying regions.
Altitude. Coffee is found growing in all altitudes, from sea-level up to the frost-line, which is about 6,000 feet in the tropics. Robusta and liberica varieties of coffee do best in regions from sea-level up to 3,000 feet, while arabica flourishes better at the higher levels.
Carvalho says that the coffee plant needs sun, but that a few hours daily exposure is sufficient. Hilly ground has the advantage of offering the choice of a suitable exposure, as the sun shines on it for only a part of the day. Whether it is the early morning or the afternoon sun that enables the plant to attain its optimum conditions is a question of locality.
In Mexico, Romero tells us, the highlands of Soconusco have the advantage that the sun does not shine on the trees during the whole of the day. On the higher slopes of the Cordilleras—from 2,500 feet above sea-level—clouds prevail during the summer season, when the sun is hottest, and are frequently present in the other seasons, after ten o'clock in the morning. These keep the trees from being exposed to the heat of the sun during the whole of the day. Perhaps to this circumstance is due the superior excellence of certain coffees grown in Mexico, Colombia, and Sumatra at an altitude of 3,000 feet to 4,000 feet above sea-level.
Richard Spruce, the botanist, in his notes on South America, as quoted by Alfred Russel Wallace, refers to "a zone of the equatorial Andes ranging between 4,000 and 6,000 feet altitude, where the best flavored coffee is grown."
Propagation. Coffee trees are grown most generally from seeds selected from trees of known productivity and longevity; although in some parts of the world propagation is done from shoots or cuttings. The seed method is most general, however, the seeds being either propagated in nursery beds, or planted at once in the spot where the mature tree is to stand. In the latter case—called planting at stake—four or five seeds are planted, much as corn is sown; and after germination, all but the strongest plant are removed.
Where the nursery method is followed, the choicest land of the plantation is chosen for its site; and the seeds are planted in forcing beds, sometimes called cold-frames. When the plants are to be transplanted direct to the plantation, the seeds are generally sown six inches apart and in rows separated by the same distance, and are covered with only a slight sprinkling of earth. When the plants are to be transferred from the first bed to another, and then to the plantation, the seeds are sown more thickly; and the plants are "pricked" out as needed, and set out in another forcing bed.
During the six to seven weeks required for the coffee seed to germinate, the soil must be kept moist and shaded and thoroughly weeded. If the trees are to be grown without shade, the young plants are gradually exposed to the sun, to harden them, before they begin their existence in the plantation proper.
Considerable experimental work has been done in renewing trees by grafting, notably in Java; but practically all commercial planters follow the seed method.
Preparing the Plantation. Before transplanting time has come, the plantation itself has been made ready to receive the young plants. Coffee plantations are generally laid out on heavily wooded and sloping lands, most often in forests on mountainsides and plateaus, where there is an abundance of water, of which large quantities are used in cultivating the trees and in preparing the coffee beans for market. The soil most suitable is friable, sandy, or even gravelly, with an abundance of rocks to keep the soil comparatively cool and well drained, as well as to supply a source of food by action of the weather. The ideal soil is one that contains a large proportion of potassium and phosphoric acid; and for that reason, the general practise is to burn off the foliage and trees covering the land and to use the ashes as fertilizer.
In preparing the soil for the new plantation under the intensive cultivation method, the surface of the land is lightly plowed, and then followed up with thorough cultivation. When transplanting time comes, which is when the plant is about a year old, and stands from twelve to eighteen inches high with its first pairs of primary branches, the plants are set out in shallow holes at regular intervals of from eight to twelve, or even fourteen, feet apart. This gives room for the root system to develop, provides space for sunlight to reach each tree, and makes for convenience in cultivating and harvesting. Liberica and robusta type trees require more room than arabica. When set twelve feet apart, which is the general practise, with the same distance maintained between rows, there are approximately four hundred and fifty trees to the acre. In the triangle, or hexagon, system the trees are planted in the form of an equilateral triangle, each tree being the same distance (usually eight or nine feet) from its six nearest neighbors. This system permits of 600 to 800 trees per acre.
Shade and Wind Breaks. Strong, chilly winds and intensely hot sunlight are foes of coffee trees, especially of the arabica variety. Accordingly, in most countries it is customary to protect the plantation with wind-breaks consisting of rugged trees, and to shade the coffee by growing trees of other kinds between the rows. The shade trees serve also to check soil erosion; and in the case of the leguminous kinds, to furnish nutriment to the soil. Coffee does best in shade such as is afforded by the silk[Pg 202] oak (Grevillea robusta). In Shade in Coffee Culture (Bulletin 25, 1901, division of botany, United States Department of Agriculture), O.F. Cook goes extensively into this subject.
The methods employed in the care of a coffee plantation do not differ materially from those followed by advanced orchardists in the colder fruit-belts of the world. After the young plants have gained their start, they are cultivated frequently, principally to keep out the weeds, to destroy pests, and to aerate the earth. The implements used range from crude hand-plows to horse-drawn cultivators.
Fertilizing. Comparatively little fertilizing is done on plantations established on virgin soil until the trees begin to bear, which occurs when they are about three years of age. Because the coffee tree takes potash, nitrogen, and phosphoric acid from the soil, the scheme of fertilizing is to restore these elements. The materials used to replace the soil-constituents consist of stable manure, leguminous plants, coffee-tree prunings, leaves, certain weeds, oil cake, bone and fish meal, guano, wood ashes, coffee pulp and parchment, and such chemical fertilizers as superphosphate of lime, basic slag, sulphate of ammonia, nitrate of lime, sulphate of potash, nitrate of potash, and similar materials.
The relative values of these fertilizers depend largely upon local climate and soil conditions, the supply, the cost, and other like factors. The chemical fertilizers are coming into increasing use in the larger and more economically advanced producing countries. Brazil, particularly, is showing in late years a tendency toward their adoption to make up for the dwindling supply of the so-called natural manures. As the coffee tree grows older, it requires a larger supply of fertilizer.
Pruning. On the larger plantations, pruning is an important part of the cultivation processes. If left to their own devices, coffee trees sometimes grow as high as forty feet, the strength being absorbed by the wood, with a consequent scanty production of fruit. To prevent this undesirable result, and to facilitate picking, the trees on the more modern plantations are pruned down to heights ranging from six to twelve feet. Except for pruning the roots when transplanting, the tree is permitted to grow until after producing its first full crop before any cutting takes place. Then, the branches are severely cut back; and thereafter, pruning is carried on[Pg 203] annually. Topping and pruning begin between the first and the second years.
Coffee trees as a rule produce full crops from the sixth to the fifteenth year, although some trees have given a paying crop until twenty or thirty years old. Ordinarily the trees bear from one-half pound to eight pounds of coffee annually, although there are accounts of twelve pounds being obtained per tree. Production is mostly governed by the cultivation given the tree, and by climate, soil, and location. When too old to bear profitable yields, the trees on commercial plantations are cut down to the level of the ground; and are renewed by permitting only the strongest sprout springing out of the stump to mature.
Catch Crops. On some plantations it has become the practise to grow catch crops between the rows of coffee trees, both as a means of obtaining additional revenue and to shade the young coffee plants. Corn, beans, cotton, peanuts, and similar plants are most generally used.
Pests and Diseases. The coffee tree, its wood, foliage, and fruit, have their enemies, chief among which are insects, fungi, rodents (the "coffee rat"), birds, squirrels, and—according to Rossignon—elephants, buffalo, and native cattle, which have a special liking for the tender leaves of the coffee plant. Insects and fungi are the most bothersome pests on most plantations. Among the insects, the several varieties of borers are the principal foes, boring into the wood of the trunk and branches to lay larvae which sap the life from the tree. There are scale insects whose excretion forms a black mold on the leaves and affects the nutrition by cutting off the sunlight. Numerous kinds of beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and crickets attack the coffee-tree leaves, the so-called "leaf-miner" being especially troublesome. The Mediterranean fruit fly deposits larvae which destroy or lessen the worth of the coffee berry by tunneling within and eating the contents of the parchment. The coffee-berry beetle and its grub also live within the coffee berry.
Among the most destructive fungoid diseases is the so-called Ceylon leaf disease, which is caused by the Hemileia vastatrix, a fungus related to the wheat rust. It was this disease which ruined the coffee industry in Ceylon, where it first appeared in 1869,[Pg 204] and since has been found in other coffee-producing regions of Asia and Africa. America has a similar disease, caused by the Sphaerostilbe flavida, that is equally destructive if not vigilantly guarded against. (See chapters XV and XVI.)
The coffee-tree roots also are subject to attack. There is the root disease, prevalent in all countries, and for which no cause has yet been definitely assigned, although it has been determined that it is of a fungoid nature. Brazil, and some other American coffee-producing countries, have a serious disease caused by the eelworm, and for that reason called the eelworm disease.
Coffee planters combat pests and diseases principally with sprays, as in other lines of advanced arboriculture. It is a constant battle, especially on the large commercial plantations, and constitutes a large item on the expense sheet.
Cultivation by Countries
Coffee-cultivation methods vary somewhat in detail in the different producing countries. The foregoing description covers the underlying principles in practise throughout the world; while the following is intended to show the local variations in vogue in the principal countries of production, together with brief descriptions of the main producing districts, the altitudes, character of soil, climate, and other factors that are peculiar to each country. In general, they are considered in the order of their relative importance as producing countries.
Brazil. In Brazil, the Giant of South America, and the world's largest coffee producer, the methods of cultivation naturally have reached a high point of development, although the soil and the climate were not at first regarded as favorable. The year 1723 is generally accepted as the date of the introduction of the coffee plant into Brazil from French Guiana. Coffee planting was slow in developing, however, until 1732, when the governor of the states of Pará and Maranhao urged its cultivation. Sixteen years later, there were 17,000 trees in Pará. From that year on, slow but steady progress was made; and by 1770, an export trade had been begun from the port of Pará to countries in Europe.
The spread of the industry began about this time. The coffee tree was introduced into the state of Rio de Janeiro in 1770. From there its cultivation was gradually[Pg 205] extended into the states of São Paulo, Minãs Geraes, Bahia, and Espirito Santo, which have become the great coffee-producing sections of Brazil. The cultivation of the plant did not become especially noteworthy until the third decade of the nineteenth century. Large crops were gathered in the season of 1842–43; and by the middle of the century, the plantations were producing annually more than 2,000,000 bags.
Brazil's commercial coffee-growing region has an estimated area of approximately 1,158,000 square miles, and extends from the river Amazon to the southern border of the state of São Paulo, and from the Atlantic coast to the western boundary of the state of Matto Grosso. This area is larger than that section of the United States lying east of the Mississippi River, with Texas added. In every state of the republic, from Ceará in the north to Santa Catharina in the south, the coffee tree can be cultivated profitably; and is, in fact, more or less grown in every state, if only for domestic use. However, little attention is given to coffee-growing in the north, except in the state of Pernambuco, which has only about 1,500,000 trees, as compared, with the 764,000,000 trees of São Paulo in 1922.
The chief coffee-growing plantations in Brazil are situated on plateaus seldom less than 1,800 feet above sea-level, and ranging up to 4,000 feet. The mean annual temperature is approximately 70° F., ranging from a mean of 60.8° in winter to a mean of 72° in summer. The temperature has been known, however, to register 32° in winter and 97.7° in summer.
While coffee trees will grow in almost any part of Brazil, experience indicates that the two most fertile soils, the terra roxa and the massape, lie in the "coffee belts." The terra roxa is a dark red earth, and is practically confined to São Paulo, and to it is due the predominant coffee productivity of that state. Massape is a yellow, dark red—or even black—soil, and occurs more or less contiguous to the terra roxa. With a covering of loose sand, it makes excellent coffee land.
Brazil planters follow the nursery-propagated method of planting, and cultivate, prune, and spray their trees liberally. Transplanting is done in the months from November to February.
Coffee-growing profits have shown a decided falling off in Brazil in recent years. In 1900 it was not uncommon for a coffee estate to yield an annual profit of from 100 to 250 percent. Ten years later the average returns did not exceed twelve percent.
In Brazil's coffee belt there are two seasons—the wet, running from September to March; and the dry, running from April to August. The coffee trees are in bloom from September to December. The blossoms last about four days, and are easily beaten off by light winds or rains. If the rains or winds are violent, the green berries may be similarly destroyed; so that great damage may be caused by unseasonable rains and storms.
The harvest usually begins in April or May, and extends well into the dry season. Even in the picking season, heavy rains and strong winds—especially the latter—may do considerable damage; for in Brazil shade trees and wind-breaks are the exception.
Approximately twenty-five percent of the São Paulo plantations are cultivated by machinery. A type of cultivator very common is similar to the small corn-plow used in the United States. The Planet Junior, manufactured by a well known United States agricultural-machinery firm, is the most popular cultivator. It is drawn by a small mule, with a boy to lead it, and a man to drive and to guide the plow.
The preponderance of the coffee over other industries in São Paulo is shown in many ways. A few years ago the registration of laborers in all industries was about 450,000; and of this total, 420,000 were employed in the production and transportation of coffee alone. Of the capital invested in all industries, about eighty-five percent was in coffee production and commerce, including the railroads that depended upon it directly. An estimated value of $482,500,000 was placed upon the plantations in the state, including land, machinery, the residences of owners, and laborers' quarters.
In all Brazil, there are approximately 1,200,000,000 coffee trees. The number of bearing coffee trees in São Paulo alone increased from 735,000,000 in 1914–15 to 834,000,000 in 1917–18. The crop in 1917–18 was 1,615,000,000 pounds, one of the largest on record. In the agricultural year of 1922–23 there were 764,969,500 coffee trees in bearing in São Paulo, and in São Paulo, Minãs, and Parana, 824,194,500.
Plantations having from 300,000 to 400,000 trees are common. One plantation near Ribeirao Preto has 5,000,000 trees, and requires an army of 6,000 laborers to work[Pg 208] it. Another planter owns thirty-two adjacent plantations containing, in all, from 7,500,000 to 8,000,000 coffee trees and gives employment to 8,000 persons. There are fifteen plantations having more than 1,000,000 trees each, and five of these have more than 2,000,000 trees each. In the municipality of Ribeirao Preto there were 30,000,000 trees in 1922.
The largest coffee plantations in the world are the Fazendas Dumont and the Fazendas Schmidt. The Fazendas Dumont were valued, in 1915, in cost of land and improvements, at $5,920,007; and since those figures were given out, the value of the investment has much increased. Of the various Fazendas Schmidt, the largest, owned by Colonel Francisco Schmidt, in 1918 had 9,000,000 trees with an annual yield of 200,000 bags, or 26,400,000 pounds, of coffee. Other large plantations in São Paulo with a million or more trees, are the Companhia Agricola Fazenda Dumont, 2,420,000 trees; Companhia São Martinho, 2,300,000 trees; Companhia Dumont, 2,000,000 trees; São Paulo Coffee Company, 1,860,000 trees; Christiana Oxorio de Oliveira, 1,790,000 trees; Companhia Guatapara, 1,550,000 trees; Dr. Alfredo Ellis, 1,271,000 trees; Companhia Agricola Araqua, 1,200,000 trees; Companhia Agricola Ribeirao Preto, 1,138,000 trees; Rodriguez Alves Irmaos, 1,060,000 trees; Francisca Silveira do Val, 1,050,000 trees; Luiza de Oliveira Azevedo, 1,045,000 trees; and the Companhia Caféeria São Paulo, 1,000,000 trees.
The average annual yield in São Paulo is estimated at from 1,750 to 4,000 pounds from a thousand trees, while in exceptional instances it is said that as much as 6,000 pounds per 1,000 trees have been gathered. Differences in local climatic conditions, in ages of trees, in richness of soil, and in the care exercised in cultivation, are given as the reasons for the wide variation.
The oldest coffee-growing district in São Paulo is Campinas. There are 136 others.
Bahia coffee is not so carefully cultivated and harvested as the Santos coffee. The introduction of capital and modern methods would do much for Bahia, which has the advantage of a shorter haul to the New York and the European markets.
On the average, something like seventy percent of the world's coffee crop is grown in Brazil, and two-thirds of this is produced in São Paulo. Coffee culture in many districts of São Paulo has been brought to the point of highest development; and yet its product is essentially a quantity, not a quality, one.
Colombia. In Colombia, coffee is the principal crop grown for export. It is produced in nearly all departments at elevations ranging from 3,500 feet to 6,500 feet. Chief among the coffee-growing departments are Antioquia (capital, Medellin); Caldas (capital, Manizales); Magdalena (capital, Santa Marta); Santander (capital, Bucaramanga); Tolima (capital, Ibague); and the Federal District (capital, Bogota). The department of Cundinamarca produces a coffee that is counted one of the best of Colombian grades. The finest grades are grown in the foot-hills of the Andes, in altitudes from 3,500 to 4,500 feet above sea level.
Methods of planting, cultivation, gathering, and preparing the Colombian coffee crop for the market are substantially those that are common in all coffee-producing countries, although they differ in some small particulars. About 700 trees are usually planted to the acre, and native trees furnish the necessary shade. The average yield is one pound per tree per year.
While Coffea arabica has been mostly cultivated in Colombia, as in the other countries of South America, the liberica variety has not been neglected. Seeds of the liberica tree were planted here soon after 1880, and were moderately successful. Since 1900, more attention has been given to liberica, and attempts have been made to grow it upon banana and rubber plantations, which seem to provide all the shade protection that is needed. Liberica coffee trees begin to bear in their third year. From the fifth year, when a crop of about 650 pounds to the acre can reasonably be expected, the productiveness steadily increases until after fifteen or sixteen years, when a maximum of over one thousand pounds an acre is attained.
Antioquia is the largest coffee producing department in the republic, and its coffee is of the highest grade grown. Medellin, the capital, where the business interests of the industry are concentrated, is a handsome white city located on the banks of the Aburra river, in a picturesque valley that is overlooked by the high peaks of the Andean range. It is a town of about 80,000 inhabitants, thriving as a manufacturing center, abundant in modern improvements, and is the center of a coffee production of 500,000 bags known in the market as Medellin and Manizales. Another center in this coffee region is the town of Manizales, perched on the crest of the Andean spurs to dominate the valley extending to Medellin and the Cauca valley to the Pacific. There-about many small coffee growers are settled, and several hundred thousand bags of the beans pass through annually.
One of the interesting plantations of the country was started a few years ago in a remote region by an enterprising American investor. It was located on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea-level, about twenty-five miles from the city of Santa Marta. An extended acreage of forest-covered land was acquired, about 600 acres of which were cleared and either planted in coffee or reserved for pasturage and other kinds of agriculture.[Pg 212] When the plantation came to maturity, it had nearly 300,000 trees. In 1919, there were 425,000 trees producing 3,600 hundred-weight of coffee.
A typical Colombian plantation is the Namay, owned by one of the bankers of the Banco de Colombia of Bogota. It is located a good half day's travel by rail and horseback from the city, about 5,000 feet above the level of the sea. There are 1,000 acres in the plantation, with 250,000 trees having an ultimate productive capacity of nearly 2,000 bags a year. During crop times, which are from May to July, about two hundred families are needed on an estate of this size.
Venezuela. Seeds of the coffee plant were brought into Venezuela from Martinique in 1784 by a priest who started a small plantation near Caracas. Five years later, the first export of the bean was made, 233 bags, or about 30,000 pounds. Within fifty years, production had increased to upward of 50,000,000 pounds annually; and by the end of the nineteenth century, to more than 100,000,000 pounds.
Situated between the equator and the twelfth parallel of north latitude, in the world's coffee belt, this country has an area equal to that of all the United States east of the Mississippi river and north of the Ohio and Potomac rivers, or greater than that of France, Germany, and the Netherlands combined—599,533 square miles.
The chain of the Maritime Andes, reaching eastward across Colombia and Venezuela, approaches the Caribbean coast in the latter country. Along the slopes and foot-hills of these mountains are produced some of the finest grades of South American coffee. Here the best coffee grows in the tierra templada and in the lower part of the tierra fria, and is known as the café de tierra fria, or coffee of the cold, or high, land. In these regions the equable climate, the constant and adequate moisture, the rich and well-drained soil, and the protecting forest shade afford the conditions under which the plant grows and thrives best. On the fertile lowland valleys nearer the coast grows the café de tierra caliente, or coffee of the hot land.
Coffee growing has become the main agricultural pursuit of the country. In 1839 it was estimated that there were 8,900 acres of land planted in coffee, and in 1888 there were 168,000,000 coffee trees in the country on 346,000 acres of land. In the opening years of the twentieth century not far from 250,000 acres were devoted to this cultivation, comprised in upward of 33,000[Pg 213] plantations. The average yield per acre is about 250 pounds. The trees are usually planted from two to two and a quarter meters apart, and this gives about 800 trees to the acre. The triangle system is unknown.
In this country, the coffee tree bears its first crop when four or five years old. The trees are not subject to unusual hazards from the attacks of injurious insects and animals or from serious parasitic diseases. Nature is kind to them, and their only serious contention for existence arises from the luxuriant tropical vegetation by which they are surrounded. On the whole their cultivation is comparatively easy. On the best managed estates there are not more than 1,000 trees to a fanegada—about one and three-quarters acres of land—and it is calculated that an average annual yield for such a fanegada should be about twenty quintals, a little more than 2,032 pounds of merchantable coffee. It is to be noted, however, that the average yield per tree throughout Venezuela is low—not more than four ounces.
There are no great coffee belts as in Mexico and Central America. Many districts are days' rides apart. The plantations are isolated, and there is lacking a co-operative spirit among the growers.
Methods of cultivating and preparing the berry for the market are substantially those that prevail elsewhere in South America. Most plantations are handled in ordinary, old-fashioned ways; but the better estates employ machinery and methods of the most advanced and improved character at all points of their operation, from the planting of the seed to the final marketing of the berry.
Java. Java, the oldest coffee-producing country in which the tree is not indigenous, was producing a high-grade coffee long before Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela entered the industry; and it held its supremacy in the world's trade for many years before the younger American producing countries were able to surpass its annual output. The first attempt to introduce the plant into Java took place in 1696, the seedlings being brought from Malabar in India and planted at Kadawoeng, near Batavia. Earthquake and flood soon destroyed the plants; and in 1699 Henricus Zwaardecroon brought the second lot of seedlings from Malabar. These became the progenitors of all the arabica coffees of the Dutch East Indies. The industry grew, and in 1711 the first Java coffee was sold at public auction in Amsterdam. Exports amounted to 116,587 pounds in 1720; and in 1724 the Amsterdam market sold 1,396,486 pounds of coffee from Java.
From the early part of the nineteenth century up to 1905, cultivation was carried on under a Dutch government monopoly—excepting[Pg 214] for the five years, 1811–16, when the British had control of the island. The government monopoly was first established when Marshal Daendels, acting for the crown of Holland, took control of the islands from the Netherlands East India Company. Before that time, the princes of Preanger had raised all the coffee under the provisions of a treaty made in the middle of the eighteenth century, by which they paid an annual tribute in coffee to the company for the privilege of retaining their land revenues. When the Dutch government recovered the islands from the British, the plantations, which had been permitted to go to ruin, were put in order again, and the government system re-established.
A modification of the first monopoly plan of the government was put into effect later in the régime of Governor Van den Bosch, and was maintained until into the twentieth century. Under the Daendels plan, each native family was required to keep 1000 coffee trees in bearing on village lands, and to give to the government two-fifths of the crop, delivered cleaned and sorted, at the government store. The natives retained the other three-fifths. Under the Van den Bosch system, each family was required to raise and care for 650 trees and to deliver the crop cleaned and sorted to the government stores at a fixed price. The government then sold the coffee at public auctions in Batavia, Padang, Amsterdam, or Rotterdam.
This method of fostering the new industry resulted in government control of fully four-fifths of the area under the crop, only the small balance being owned or worked independently by private enterprise. For many years after the cultivation had been fully started, this condition of the business persisted. Most of the privately-operated plantations had been in existence before the government had set up its monopoly system. Others were on the estates of native princes who, in treating with the Dutch, had been able to retain some of their original sovereign rights. While these plans worked well in encouraging the industry at the outset, they were not conducive to the fullest possibilities in production. Forced labor on the government plantations was naturally apt to be slow, careless, and indifferent. Private ownership and operation bettered this somewhat, the private estates being able to show annual yields of from one to two pounds per tree as compared with only a little more[Pg 215] than one-half pound per tree on government-controlled estates.
In the course of time, the system of private ownership gradually expanded beyond that of the government; and before the end of the nineteenth century, private owners were growing and exporting more coffee than did the Javanese government. The government withdrew from the coffee business in Java in 1905, and the last government auction was held in June of that year. The monopoly in Sumatra was given up in 1908. After that, however, coffee continued to be grown on government lands, but in much less quantity than in the years immediately preceding. The Dutch government withdrew from all coffee cultivation in 1918–19.
According to statistics, the ground under cultivation for all kinds of coffee in Java and the other islands of the Dutch East Indies in 1919 was 142,272 acres, of which 112,138 acres were in Java. Of this area, 110,903 acres were planted with robusta, 15,314 acres with arabica, 4,940 with liberica, and 11,115 with other varieties.
There were more than 400 European-managed estates in 1915, covering a planted area of about 209,000 acres. Three hundred and thirty of these estates, representing 165,000 acres, were in Java. On that island production in 1904 was 47,927,000 pounds; in 1905, 59,092,000 pounds; in 1906, 66,953,000 pounds; in 1907, 31,044,000 pounds; 1908, 39,349,000 pounds. The total crop in 1919 for all the Netherlands East Indies was 97,361,000 pounds, as against 140,764,800 pounds for 1918.
Intensive cultivation methods on the European-operated plantations in Java have been practised for many years; and the Netherlands East Indies government has long maintained experimental stations for the purpose of improving strains and cultivation methods.
In some parts of the island, especially in the highlands, the climate and soil are ideal for coffee culture. The robusta tree grows satisfactorily even at altitudes of less than 1,000 feet in some regions; but its bearing life is only about ten years, as compared with the thirty years of the arabica at altitudes of from 3,000 to 4,000 feet. The low-ground trees generally produce earlier and more abundantly. On some of the highland plantations, pruning is not practised to any great extent, and the trees often reach thirty or forty feet in height. This necessitates the use of ladders in picking;[Pg 216] but frequently the yield per tree has been from six to seven pounds.
Coffee is produced commercially in nearly every political district in Java, but the bulk of the yield is obtained from East Java. The names best known to European and American traders are those of the regencies of Besoeki and Pasoeroean; because their coffees make up eighty-seven percent of Java's production. Some of the other better known districts are: Preanger, Cheribon, Kadoe, Samarang, Soerabaya, and Tegal.
The arabica variety has practically been driven out of the districts below 3,500 feet altitude by the leaf disease, and has been succeeded by the more hardy robusta and liberica coffees and their hybrids. Illustrating the importance of robusta coffee, Netherlands East India government in a statement issued August, 1919, estimated the area under cultivation on all islands as follows: robusta, eighty-four percent; arabica, five and one-half percent; liberica, four and one-half percent. The balance, six percent, was made up of scores of other varieties, among the most important being the canephora, Ugandæ, baukobensis, suakurensis, Quillou, stenophylla, and rood-bessige. All of these are similar to robusta, and are exported as robusta-achtigen (robusta-like). The liberica group includes the excelsa, abeokuta, Dewevrei, arnoldiana, aruwimiensis, and Dybowskii.
Sumatra. Practically all the coffee districts in Sumatra are on the west coast, where the plant was first propagated early in the eighteenth century. Padang, the capital city, is the headquarters for Sumatra coffee. With climate and soil similar to Java, the island of Sumatra has the added advantage that its land is not "coffee moe", or coffee tired, as is the case in parts of Java. Some of the world's best coffees are still coming from Sumatra; and the island has possibilities that could make it an important factor in production. Sumatra produced 287,179 piculs of coffee in 1920. The total production of all the islands that year was 807,591 piculs.
The districts of Ankola, Siboga, Ayer Bangies, Mandheling, Palembang, Padang, and Benkoelen, on the west coast, have some of the largest estates on the island; and their products are well known in international trade. The east coast has recently gone in for heavy plantings of robusta.
As in Java, coffee for a century or more was cultivated under the government-monopoly scheme. The compulsory system was given up in this island in 1908, three years after it was abandoned in Java.
Other East Indies. Coffee is grown in several of the other islands in the Dutch East Indian archipelago, chiefly on the Celebes, Bali, Lombok, the Moluccas, and Timor. Most of the estates are under native control, and the methods of cultivation are not up to the standard of the European-owned plantations on the larger islands of Java and Sumatra. The most important of these islands is Celebes, where the first coffee plant was introduced from Java about 1750, but where cultivation was not carried on to any great extent until about seventy-five years later. In 1822 the production amounted to 10,000 pounds; in 1917, the yield was 1,322,328 pounds.
Salvador. Coffee, which is far and away the most important crop in Salvador, constitutes in value more than one-half the total exports. It has been cultivated since about 1852, when plants were brought from Havana; but the development of the industry in its early years was not rapid. The first large plantations were established in 1876 in La Paz, and that department has become the leading coffee-producing section of the country.
The berry is grown in all districts that have altitudes of from 1,500 to 4,000 feet. Besides those of La Paz, the most productive plantations are in the departments of Santa Ana, Sonsonate, San Salvador, San Vincente, San Miguel, Santa Tecla, and Ahuachapan. In contrast with several of the adjoining Central American republics, native Salvadoreans are the owners of most of the coffee farms, very few having passed into the hands of foreigners. The laborers are almost entirely native Indians. A considerable part of the work of cultivating and preparing the berry for the market is still done by hand; but in recent years machinery has been set up on the large estates and for general use in the receiving centers.
It is estimated that now about 166,000 acres are under coffee, nearly all the land in the country suitable for that purpose. As in most other coffee-raising countries, the trees begin bearing when they are two or three years old, reach full maturity at the age of seven or eight years, and continue to bear for about thirty years. Intensive cultivation and a more extensive use of fertilizers have been urged as necessary in order to increase the crop; but, so far, with not much effect, the importation of fertilizer being still very small. Crop gathering begins in the lowlands in November, and gradually proceeds into the higher regions, month by month, until the picking in the highest altitudes is finished in the following March.
Guatemala. Guatemala began intensive coffee growing about 1875. Coffee had been known in the country in a small way from about 1850, but now serious attention began to be given to its cultivation, and it quickly advanced to an industrial position of importance. Within a generation it became the great staple crop of the country.
Guatemala has an area of 48,250 square miles, about the size of the state of Ohio. Its population is about 2,000,000. Three mountain ranges, intersecting magnificent table lands, traverse the country from north to south; and there is the great coffee territory. The table lands are from 2,500 to 5,000 feet above sea-level, and have a temperate climate most agreeable to the coffee tree. On the lower heights it is necessary to protect the young trees from the extreme heat of the sun; and the banana is most approved for this purpose, since it raises its own crop at the same time that it is giving shade to its companion tree. On the higher levels the plantations need protection from the cold north winds that blow strongly across the country, especially in December, January, and February. The range of hills to the north is the best protection, and generally is all sufficient. When the weather becomes too severe, heaps of rubbish mixed with pitch are thrown up to the north of the fields of coffee trees and set afire, the resultant dense smoke driving down between rows of trees and saving them from the frost.
Named in the order of their productivity, the coffee districts are Costa Cuca, Costa Grande, Barberena, Tumbador, Cobán, Costa de Cucho, Chicacao, Xolhuitz, Pochuta, Malacatan, San Marcos, Chuva, Panan, Turgo, Escuintla, San Vincente, Pacaya, Antigua, Moran, Amatitlan, Sumatan, Palmar, Zunil, and Motagua.
Estimates of coffee acreage vary. One authority, too conservatively, perhaps, puts the figure at 145,000. Another estimate is 260,000 acres. Under cultivation are from 70,000,000 to 100,000,000 trees from which an annual crop averaging about 75,000,000 pounds is raised, and the exceptional amounts of nearly 90,000,000 and 97,000,000 pounds have been harvested. Several plantations of size can be counted upon for an annual production of more than 1,000,000 pounds each.
Before the World War German interests dominated the coffee industry, handling fully eighty percent of the crop, and growing nearly half of it.
Planting and cultivation methods in Guatemala are about the same as those prevailing in other countries. The trees are usually in flower in February, March, and April, and the harvesting season extends from August to January. All work on the plantation is done by Indian laborers under a peonage system, families working in companies: wages are small, but sufficient, conditions of living being easy. As elsewhere in these tropical and sub-tropical[Pg 220] countries, scarcity of labor is severely felt, and is a grave obstacle to the development of the industry in a land that is regarded as particularly well adapted to it.
Haiti. Haiti, the magic isle of the Indies, has grown coffee almost from the beginning of the introduction of the tree into the western hemisphere. Its cultivation was started there about 1715, but the trees were largely permitted to fall into a wild natural state, and little attention was given to them or to the handling of the crop. Fertility of soil, climate, and moisture are favorable, and the advancement of the industry has been retarded only by the political conditions of the negro republic and a general lack of industry and enterprise on the part of the people.
Haiti is an island with three names. Haiti is used to describe the island as a whole, and to denote the Republic of Haiti, which occupies the western third of its area. The island is also known as Santo Domingo, and San Domingo, names likewise applied to the Dominican Republic which occupies the eastern two-thirds of the land unit.
Plantations now existing in Haiti have had, with rare exceptions, a life of more than ten or twenty years. It is estimated that they cover about 125,000 acres, with about 400 trees to the acre.
When the French acquired the island in 1789, the annual production was 88,360,502 pounds. During the following century that amount was not approached in any year, the nearest to it being 72,637,716 pounds in 1875. The lowest annual production was 20,280,589 pounds in 1818. The range during the hundred years, 1789–1890, was, with the exceptions noted, from 45,000,000 to 71,000,000 pounds.
Mexico. Opinions differ as to the exact date when coffee was introduced into Mexico. It is said to have been transplanted there from the West Indies near the end of the eighteenth century. A story is current that a Spaniard set out a few trees, on trial, in southern Mexico, in 1800, and that his experiments started other Mexican planters along the same line. Coffee was grown in the state of Vera Cruz early in the nineteenth century; and the books of the Vera Cruz custom house record that 1,101 quintals of coffee were exported through that port during the years 1802, 1803, and 1805.
In the Coatepec district, which eventually became famous in the annals of Mexican coffee growing, trees were planted about the year 1808. Local history says that seeds were brought from Cuba by Arias, a partner of the house of Pedro Lopez, owners of the large hacienda of Orduna in Coatepec.[Pg 221] The seeds were given to a priest, Andres Dominguez, who sowed them near Teocelo. When he had succeeded in starting seedlings, he gave them away to other planters there-about. The plants thrived, and this was the beginning of coffee cultivation in that section of the country.
It was, however, nearly ten years later before the cultivation was on a scale approaching industrial and commercial importance. About 1816 or 1818 a Spaniard, named Juan Antonio Gomez, introduced the plant into the neighborhood of Cordoba. This city, now on the line of the Mexican and Vera Cruz Railroad, 200 miles from Mexico City, and sixty miles from Vera Cruz, is 2,500 feet above sea-level, and is situated in the most productive tropical region of the country.
Having been started in Coatepec and Cordoba, the industry was centered for a long time in the state of Vera Cruz. For many years practically all the coffee grown commercially in Mexico was produced in that state. Gradually the new pursuit spread to the mountains in the adjacent states of Oaxaca and Puebla, where it was taken up by the Indians almost entirely, and is still followed by them, but not on a large scale.
Although cultivation is now widely distributed in most of the more southern states of the republic, the principal coffee territory is still in Vera Cruz, where lie the districts of Cordoba, Orizaba, Huatusco, and Coatepec. In the same region are the Jalapa district, and the mountains of Puebla, where a great deal of coffee is grown. Farther south are the Oaxaca districts on the mountain slopes of the Pacific coast, and still farther south the districts of the state of Chiapas. Planting in the Pluma district in Oaxaca was begun about fifty years ago, and it now produces annually, in good years, nearly 1,000,000 pounds. The youngest district in this section is Soconusco, one of the most prolific in the republic, having been developed within the last thirty years. The region is near the border of Guatemala, and the coffee is held by many to possess some of the quality of the coffee of that country. The influence of Guatemalan methods has been felt also in its cultivation and handling, especially in increasing plantation productiveness. On the gulf slope of Oaxaca, there are plantations that annually produce 222,000 to 550,000 pounds. Several United States companies have become interested in coffee growing in this[Pg 222] state, and their output in recent years has been put upon the market in St. Louis.
Two principal varieties of coffee are recognized in Mexico. A sub-variety of Coffea arabica is mostly cultivated. This is an evergreen, growing only from five to seven feet. It flourishes well at different altitudes and in different climes, from the temperate plains of Puebla to the hot, damp, lower lands of Vera Cruz and Oaxaca, and other Pacific-coast regions. The range of elevation for it is from 1,500 to 5,000 feet, and it is satisfied with a temperature as low as 55° or as high as 80°, with plenty of natural humidity or with irrigation in the dry season. The other variety is called the "myrtle" and is widely grown, although not in large quantities. It is distinguished from arabica by the larger leaf of the tree and by the smaller corolla of the flower. It is a hardier plant than the arabica and will stand the higher temperature of low altitudes, thriving at an elevation of from 500 to 3,000 feet above sea-level. Mostly it is cultivated in the Cordoba district.
It is claimed by many that the Mexican coffee of best quality is grown in the western regions of the table lands of Colima and Michoacan, but only a small quantity of that is available for export. The state of Michoacan is especially favored by climate, altitude, soil, and surroundings to produce coffee of exceptionally high grade, and the Uruapan is considered to be its best.
Trees flower in January and March, and in high altitudes as late as June or July. Berries appear in July and are ripe for gathering in October or November, the picking season lasting until February.
Trees begin to yield when two or three years old, producing from two to four ounces. They reach full production, which is about one and a half pounds, at the age of six or seven years, though in the districts of Chiapas, Michoacan, Oaxaca, and Puebla, annual yields of three to five pounds per tree have been reported.
Since the World War American buyers have shown greater interest in the Tapachula coffee grown in Chiapas.
Porto Rico. Coffee culture in Porto Rico dates from 1755 or even earlier, having been introduced from the neighboring islands of Martinique and Haiti. Count O'Reilly, writing of the island in the eighteenth century, mentions that the coffee exports for five years previous to 1765 amounted in value to $2,078. Old records show that in 1770 there was a crop of 700,000 pounds and that seems to be the first evidence that the new industry was growing to any noticeable proportions. For a hundred years, at least, only slow progress was made. In 1768 the king, of Spain issued a royal decree exempting coffee growers on the island from the payment of taxes or charges for a period of five years; but even that measure was not materially successful in stimulating interest and in developing cultivation.
Porto Rico is a good coffee-growing country; soil, climate, and temperature are well adapted to the berry. The coffee belt extends through the western half of the island, beginning in the hills along the south coast around Ponce, and extending north through the center of the island almost to Arecibo, near the west end of the north coast. But some coffee is grown in the other parts of the island, in sixty-four of the sixty-eight municipalities. Mountain sections are considered to be superior.
The largest plantations are in the region which includes the municipalities of Utuado, Adjuntas, Lares, Las Marias, Yauco, Maricao, San Sebastian, Mayaguez, Ciales, and Ponce. With the exception of Ponce and Mayaguez, all these districts are back from the coast; but insular roads of[Pg 223] recent construction make them now easily accessible, and there is no point on the island more than twenty miles distant from the sea.
From the Sierra Luquillo range, which rises to a height of 1,500 feet, and from Yauco, Utuado, and Lares, come excellent coffees; and, on the whole, these are considered to be the best coffee regions of the island. A fine grade of coffee is also grown in the Ciales district. Figures compiled by the Treasury Department of the insular government for the purpose of taxation showed that for the tax year 1915–16 there were 167,137 acres of land planted to coffee and valued at $10,341,592, an average of $61.87 per acre. In 1910, there were 151,000 acres planted in coffee. In 1916 there were more than 5,000 separate coffee plantations.
Originally the coffee trees of Porto Rico were all of the arabica variety. In recent years numerous others have been introduced, until in 1917 there were more than 2,500 trees of new descriptions on the island.
The virgin land in the interior of the island is admirably adapted to the coffee tree, and less labor is required to prepare it for plantation purposes than in many other coffee-growing countries. It is cleared in the usual manner, and the trees are planted about eight feet apart, an average of 680 trees to the acre. The seeds are planted in February; and if the seedlings are transplanted, that is done when they are a year or a year and a half old. The guama, a big strong tree of dense foliage, is used for a wind-break on the ridges; and the guava, for shade in the plantation. Plow cultivation is generally impossible on account of the lay of the land, and only hoeing and spade work are done. Pruning is carefully attended to as the trees become full grown.
Flowering is generally in February and March, or even later. Heavy rains in April make a poor crop. Harvesting begins in September and extends into January, during which time ten pickings are made.
The average yield per acre is between 200 and 300 pounds; but expert authority—Prof. O.F. Cook—in a statement made to the Committee on Insular Affairs of the United States House of Representatives, in 1900, held that under better cultural methods the yield could be increased to 800 or 900 pounds per acre. One estimator has calculated that an average plantation of 100 acres had cost its owner at the end of six or seven years, the bearing age, about $13,100 with yields of 75 pounds per acre in the third and in the fourth years, 400 pounds per acre in the fifth year, and 500 pounds in the sixth year, the income from which would practically have met the cost to that time. It is held by the same authority that an intensively cultivated, well-situated farm of selected trees, 880 to the acre, should yield some 880 pounds of cleaned coffee to the acre.
Costa Rica. Costa Rica ranks next to Guatemala and Salvador among the Central American countries as a producer of coffee, showing an average annual yield in recent years of 35,000,000 pounds as compared with Guatemala's 80,000,000 and Salvador's 75,000,000 pounds. Nicaragua has an average annual production of 30,000,000 pounds.
Coffee was introduced into Costa Rica in the latter part of the eighteenth century; one authority saying that the plants were brought from Cuba in 1779 by a Spanish voyager, Navarro, and another saying that the first trees were planted several years later by Padre Carazo, a Spanish missionary coming from Jamaica. For more than a century six big coffee trees standing in a courtyard in the city of Cartago were pointed out to visitors as the very trees that Carazo had planted.
The coffee-producing districts are principally on the Pacific slope and in the central plateaus of the interior. Plantations are located in the provinces of Cartago, Tres Rios, San José, Heredia, and Alajuela. In the province of Cartago are several extensive new estates on the slope to the Atlantic coast. The San José and the Cartago districts are considered by many to be the best naturally for the coffee tree. The soil is an exceedingly rich black loam made up of continuous layers of volcanic ashes and dust from three to fifteen feet deep. Preferable altitudes for plantations range from 3,000 to 4,500 feet, although a height of 5,000 feet is not out of use and there are some estates that do fairly well on levels as low as 1,500 feet.
India. Tradition has it that a Moslem pilgrim in the seventeenth century brought from Mecca to India the first coffee seeds known in that country. They were planted near a temple on a hill in Mysore called Baba Budan, after the pilgrim; and from there the cultivation of coffee gradually spread to neighboring[Pg 226] districts. Aside from this legend, nothing further is heard about coffee in India until the early part of the nineteenth century, when its existence there was confirmed by the granting of a charter to Fort Gloster, near Calcutta, authorizing that place to become a coffee plantation.
Planting was begun on the flat land of the plains, but the trees did not thrive. Then the cultivation was extended to the hills in southern India, especially in Mysore, where better success was achieved. The first systematic plantation was established in 1840. For the most part, the production has always been confined to southern India in the elevated region near the southwestern coast. The coffee district comprises the landward slopes of the Western Ghats, from Kanara to Travancore.
About one-half of the coffee-producing area is in Mysore; and other plantations are in Kurg (Coorg), the Madras districts of Malabar, and in the Nilgiri hills, those regions having 86 percent of the whole area under cultivation. Some coffee is grown also in other districts in Madras, principally in Madura, Salem, and Coimbator, in Cochin, in Travancore, and, on a restricted scale, in Burma, Assam, and Bombay. The area returned as under coffee in 1885 was 237,448 acres; in 1896, as 303,944 acres. Since then there has been a progressive decrease on account of damage from leaf diseases difficult to combat, and by competition with Brazilian coffee.
New land that had just been planted with coffee in plantations reported for 1919–20 amounted to 7,012 acres; while the area abandoned was 8,725 acres, representing a net decrease in cultivated area of 1,713 acres.
Of the total area devoted to coffee cultivation (126,919 acres), 49 percent was in Mysore, which yielded 35 percent of the total production; while Madras, with 23 percent of the total area, yielded 38 percent of the production. The total production for the year 1920–21 is reported as 26,902,471 pounds.
Yield varies throughout the country according to the methods of cultivation and the condition of the season. On the best estates in a good season, the yield per acre may be as high as 1,100 or 1,200 pounds, and on poor estates it may not be over 200 or 300 pounds. The arabica variety is chiefly cultivated. The robusta and Maragogipe have been tried, but without much success.
A representative plantation is the Santaverre in Mysore, comprising 400 acres, at an elevation of from 4,000 to 4,500 feet, where the coffee trees, cultivated under shade, produce from 100 to 250 tons of coffee a year. Other prominent estates in Mysore are Cannon's Baloor and Mylemoney, the Hoskahn, and the Sumpigay Khan.
Nicaragua. Coffee trees will grow well anywhere in Nicaragua, but the best locations have altitudes of from 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. At such elevations the yield varies from one pound to five pounds per tree annually; but above or below those, the average production diminishes to from one pound to one-half pound a tree.
Lands most suitable for the berry are on the Sierra de Managua, in Diriambe, San Marcos, and Jinotega, and about the base of the volcano Monbacho near Granada. Good land is also found on the island Omotepe in Lake Nicaragua, and around Boaco in the department of Chontales, where cultivation was begun in 1893.
There are also plantations in the vicinity of Esteli and Lomati in the department of Neuva Segovia. The most extensive operations are in the departments of Managua, Carazo, Matagalpa, Chontales, and Jinotega, and from those regions the annual crop has attained to such quantity that it has become the chief agricultural product of the republic. Poor and costly means of transportation on the Atlantic slope have operated to retard the development[Pg 228] of the industry there, even though conditions of climate are not unfavorable.
Abyssinia. In the absence of any conclusive evidence to the contrary, the claim that coffee was first made known to modern man by the trees on the mountains of the northeastern part of the continent of Africa may be accepted without reserve. Undoubtedly the plant grew wild all through tropical Africa; but its value as an addition to man's dietary was brought forth in Abyssinia.
Abyssinia, while it may have given coffee to the world, no longer figures as a prime factor in supplying the world, and now exports only a limited quantity. There are produced in the country two coffees known to the trade as Harari and Abyssinian, the former being by far the more important. The Harari is the fruit of cultivated arabica trees grown in the province of Harar, and mostly in the neighborhood of the city of Harar, capital of the province. The Abyssianian is the fruit of wild arabica trees that grow mainly in the provinces of Sidamo, Kaffa, and Guma.
The coffee of Harar is known to the trade as Mocha longberry or Abyssinian longberry. Most of the plantations upon which it is raised are owned by the native Hararis, Galla, and Abyssinians, although there are a few Greek, German, and French planters. The trees are planted in rows about twelve or fifteen feet apart, and comparatively little attention is given to cultivation. Crops average two a year, and sometimes even five in two years. The big yield is in December, January, and February. The average crop is about seventy pounds, and is mostly from small plots of from fifty to one hundred trees, there being no very large plantations. All the coffee is brought into the city of Harar, whence it is sent on mule-back to Dire-Daoua on the Franco-Ethiopian Railway, and from there by rail to Jibuti. Some of it is exported directly from Jibuti, and the rest is forwarded to Aden, in Arabia, for re-exporting.
Abyssinian, or wild, coffee is also known as Kaffa coffee, from one of the districts where it grows most abundantly in a state of nature. This coffee has a smaller bean and is less rich in aroma and flavor than the Harari; but the trees grow in such profusion that the possible supply, at the minimum of labor in gathering, is practically unlimited. It is said that in southwestern[Pg 229] Abyssinia there are immense forests of it that have never been encroached upon except at the outskirts, where the natives lazily pick up the beans that have fallen to the ground. It is shelled where it is found, in the most primitive fashion, and goes out in a dirty, mixed condition.
Formerly, much of this Kaffa coffee was sent to market through Boromeda, Harar, and Dire-Daoua. An average annual crop was about 6,000 bags, or 800,000 pounds, of which something more than one-half usually went through Harar. A customs and trading station has lately been established at Gambela, on the Sobat River: and with the development of this outlet, there has been a substantial and increasing exploitation of the wild-coffee plants since 1913. Large areas of land have been cleared, with a view to cultivation, and attention is being given to improved methods of harvesting and of preparing the coffee for the market. At one time a fair amount of coffee from this region went to Adis Abeba on the backs of pack mules, a journey of thirty-five or forty days, and then was carried to Jibuti, nearly 500 miles, part of the way by rail. Now practically all of it goes to Gambela, thence by steamers to Khartoum, and by rail to the shipping-point at Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
Other African Countries. Practically every part of Africa seems to be suitable for coffee cultivation, even United South Africa, in the southern part of the continent, producing 140,212 pounds in 1918. To name all the countries in which it is grown would be to list nearly all the political divisions of Africa. Among the largest producers are the British East African Protectorate, 18,735,572 pounds in 1918; French Somaliland, 11,222,736 pounds in 1917; Angola, 10,655,934 pounds in 1913; Uganda, 9,999,845 pounds in 1918; former German East Africa, 2,334,450 pounds in 1913; Cape Verde Islands, 1,442,910 pounds in 1916; Madagascar, 707,676 pounds in 1918; Liberia, 761,300 pounds in 1917; Eritrea, 728,840 pounds in 1918; St. Thomas and Prince's Islands, 484,350 pounds in 1916; and the Belgian Congo, 375,000 pounds in 1917.
Angola. Coffee is Angola's second product, and there are large areas of wild-coffee trees. With a production of nearly 11,000,000 pounds, Angola ranks about third in Africa as a coffee-growing country. The coffee is gathered and sold by[Pg 230] the natives, and there are also several European companies engaged in the coffee business. The chief coffee belt extends from the Quanza River northward to the Kongo at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,500 feet. In the Cazengo valley the wild trees are so thick that thinning out is the only operation necessary to the plantation-owner. When the trees become too tall, they are simply cut off about two feet above ground; and new shoots appear from the trunks the following season.
The largest coffee plantation, owned by the Companhia Agricola de Cazengo, produced in 1913, a record year, nearly 1,500 tons.
Liberia. Coffee is native to Liberia, growing wild in the hinterland of the negro republic, and in the natural state the trees often attain a height of from thirty to forty feet. Cultivated Liberian coffee, Coffea liberica, has become a staple of the civilized inhabitants of the country, and is grown successfully in hot, moist lowlands or on hills that are not much elevated. On account of the size of the trees, only about four hundred can be planted to the acre. In recent years the native Africans have been planting thousands of trees in the district of Grand Cape Mount. Coffee is grown in all parts of the republic, but chiefly in Grand Cape Mount and Montserrado.
General Outlook in Africa. In the African countries under control of European governments much recent progress has been made in promoting coffee growing and in improving methods of cultivation.
British interests were reported in 1919 as having started a movement toward reviving interest in the coffee growing industry in the British possessions in Africa. The report stated that Uganda, in the East African Protectorate, had 21,000 acres under coffee cultivation, with 16,000 acres more in other parts of the Protectorate, and 1,300 acres in Nyasaland; also that there is no hope of an immediate revival of the industry in Natal, where it was killed twenty years ago by various pests; "but it should certainly be established in the warmer parts of Rhodesia; and in the northern part of the Transvaal an effort is being made to bring this form of enterprise into practical existence."
Coffee growing possibilities in British East Africa (Kenya Colony) are alluring, according to reports from planters in that region. Late in 1920, Major C.J. Ross, a British government officer there, said that "British East Africa is going to be one of the leading coffee countries of the world." Coffee grows wild in many parts of the Protectorate, but the natives are too lazy to pick even the wild berries.
On the more advanced plantations in all parts of Africa the approved cultivation methods of other leading countries are carefully followed; especial care being given to weeding and pruning, because of the rank growth of the tropics. On the whole, however, little attention is given to intensive methods.
Arabia. Whether the coffee tree was first discovered indigenous in the mountains of Abyssinia, or in the Yemen district of Arabia, will probably always be a matter of contention. Many writers of Europe and Asia in the fifteenth century, when coffee was first brought to the attention of the people of Europe, agree on Arabia; but there is good reason to believe the plant was brought to Arabia from Abyssinia in the sixth century.
Once all the coffee of Arabia went to the outside world through the port of Mocha on the eastern coast of the Red Sea. Mocha, which never raised any coffee, is no longer of commercial importance; but its name has been permanently attached to the coffee of this country.
Mocha (Moka, or Morkha) coffee (i.e. Coffea arabica) is raised principally in the vilayet of Yemen, a district of southeastern Arabia. Yemen extends from the north, southerly along the line of the Red Sea, nearly to the Gulf of Aden. With the exception of a narrow strip of land along the shores of the Red Sea, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, and the Gulf of Aden, it is a rugged, mountainous region, in which innumerable small valleys at high elevations are irrigated by waters from the melting snows of the mountains.
Coffee can be successfully grown in any part of Yemen, but its cultivation is confined to a few widely scattered districts, and the acreage is not large. The principal coffee regions are in the mountains between Taiz and Ibb, and between Ibb and Yerim, and Yerim and Sanaa, on the caravan route from Taiz to Sanaa; between[Pg 231] Zabeed and Ibb, on the route from Taiz to Zabeed; between Hajelah and Menakha, on the route from Hodeida to Sanaa, and in the wild mountain ranges both to the north and south of that route; between Beit-el-Fakih and Obal; and between Manakha and Batham to the north of Bajil. The plant does best at elevations ranging from 3,500 to 6,500 feet.
In the Yemen district, coffee is generally grown in small gardens. Large plantations, as they exist in other coffee-growing countries, are not seen in Arabia. Many of these small farms may be parts of a large estate belonging to some rich tribal chief. The native Arabs do not use coffee in the way it is used elsewhere in the world. They drink kisher, a beverage brewed from the husks of the berry and not from the bean. Consequently, the entire crop goes into export. But bad conditions of trade routes, political disturbances, and small regional wars, absence of good cultivation methods, and heavy transit taxes imposed by the government, have combined to restrict the production of Yemen coffee.
Land for the coffee gardens is selected on hill-slopes, and is terraced with soil and small walls of stone until it reaches up like an amphitheater—often to a considerable height. The soil is well fertilized. For sowing, the seeds are thoroughly dried in ashes, and after being placed in the ground, are carefully watched, watered, and shaded. In about a year the shrub has grown to a height of twelve or more inches. Seedlings in that condition are set out in the gardens in rows, about ten to thirteen feet apart. The young trees receive moisture from neighboring wells or from irrigation ditches, and are shaded by bananas.
At maturity the trees reach a height of ten or fifteen feet. Since they never lose all their leaves at one time, they appear always green, and bear at the same time flowers and fruits, some of which are still green while others are ripe or approaching maturity. Thus, in some districts, the trees are considered to have two or even three crops a year. All the trees begin to bear about the end of the third year.
Cuba. Coffee can be grown in practically every island of the West Indies, but owing to the state of civilization in many of the lesser islands, little is produced for international trade, excepting in Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, and Tobago. In past years a considerable quantity of good-quality coffee was produced in Cuba, the annual export in the decade of 1840 averaging 50,000,000 pounds. Severe hurricanes, adverse legislation, the rise of coffee-growing in Brazil, the increase in cultivation of sugar and other more profitable crops, practically eliminated Cuba from the international coffee-export trade.
Martinique. This is a name well known to coffee men, the world over, as the pioneer coffee-growing country of the western hemisphere. Gabriel de Clieu introduced the coffee plant to the island in 1723 by bringing it through many hardships from France. For a time, coffee flourished there, but now practically none is grown. Such coffee as bears the name Martinique in modern trade centers is produced in Guadeloupe, and is only shipped through Martinique.
Jamaica. Coffee was introduced into Jamaica in 1730; and so highly was it regarded as a desirable addition to the agricultural resources of the island, that the British Parliament in 1732 passed a special act providing for the encouraging and fostering of its cultivation. Later, it became one of the great staples of the country. Disastrous floods in 1815, and the gradual exhaustion of the best lands since then, have brought about a decline of the industry, which is now confined to a few estates in the Blue Mountains and to scattered "settler" or peasant cultivation in the same districts but at lower altitudes.
The tree was formerly grown at all altitudes, from sea-level to 5,000 feet; but the best height for it is about 4,500 feet. Four parishes lead in coffee producing: Manchester, with an area of 5,045 acres; St. Thomas, with 2,315 acres; Clarendon, with 2,172 acres; St. Andrew, with 1,584 acres. Nine other parishes that raise coffee have less than 1,000 acres each under cultivation. There were 24,865 acres devoted to coffee in 1900. In addition, it was estimated that there were 80,000 acres suitable for the cultivation, nearly all being owned by the government.
Dominican Republic. Coffee was once the leading staple in the Dominican Republic as in the adjoining Haitian Republic; but in recent years cacao, sugar, and tobacco have become the predominating crops. Said to have the world's richest and most productive soil, one-half of the republic's area is particularly suited to the cultivation of a good grade of coffee of the highland type. But political and industrial conditions have made for neglect of its cultivation by efficient methods. Lack of suitable roads has also militated against the development of the coffee industry.
In spite of many drawbacks, it is to be noted that, from the beginning of the twentieth century, the coffee-growing area has been gradually expanded until exports increased from less than 1,000,000 pounds to 5,029,316 pounds in 1918, although in the next two years there was a recession in the total exports to 1,358,825 pounds in 1920.
The principal plantations are in the vicinity of the town of Moca and in the districts of Santiago, Bani, and Barahona. Generally speaking, the methods of cultivation in the Dominican Republic are somewhat crude as compared with the practise in the larger countries of production in Central America and South America.
Guadeloupe. Guadeloupe has an area of 619 square miles, and about one-third of this area is under cultivation. About 15,000 acres are in coffee, giving employment to upward of 10,000 persons. The average yield of a plantation of mature trees is about 535 pounds to the acre.
In the early years of the industry in Guadeloupe, production and export were considerable. From old records it appears that in 1784 the exports amounted to 7,500,000 pounds. During the closing years of the eighteenth century the annual exports were from 6,500,000 to 8,500,000 pounds, and in the beginning of the next century they registered about 6,000,000 pounds. Toward the middle of the nineteenth century the growing of sugar cane overtopped that of coffee in profit, and many planters abandoned coffee. After 1884, with the decadence of the sugar industry, coffee was again favored, the government giving substantial encouragement by paying bounties ranging from $15 to $19 per acre for all new coffee plantations.
In recent years, considerable liberica and robusta have been planted in place of the exhausted arabica.
Trinidad and Tobago. The islands of Trinidad and Tobago are small factors in international coffee trading. Coffee can be grown almost any place on the islands; but its cultivation is confined principally to the districts of Maracas, Aripo, and North Oropouche. Both the arabica and the liberica varieties are grown.
Honduras. Soil, surface, and climate in Honduras, as far as they relate to the cultivation of coffee, are similar to those of the adjoining regions of Central America. The tree grows in the uplands of the interior, thriving best at an altitude of from 1,500 to 4,000 feet. Scarcity of labor and insufficient means of transportation have been the chief obstacles in the way of the large development of the industry.
The departments of Santa Barbara, Copan, Cortez, La Paz, Choluteca, and El Paraiso have the principal plantations. The ports of shipment are Truxillo and Puerto Cortés. Annual production in recent years has been about 5,000,000 pounds. In 1889 the United States imported 3,322,502 pounds, but in 1915 its importations fell away to 665,912 pounds.
British Honduras. British Honduras has never undertaken to raise coffee on a commercial scale despite the fact that conditions are not unfavorable to its cultivation. It has failed to produce enough even for domestic consumption, importing[Pg 235] most of what it has needed. Annual production, as recorded in recent years, has been upward of 10,000 pounds.
Panama. Panama presents a very favorable field for the growing of coffee. The best district is situated in the uplands of the district of Bugaba, where vast areas of the best lands for coffee-growing exist, and where climatic and other conditions are most favorable to its growth.
No shade is required in this country; and the only cultivation consists of three or four cleanings a year to keep down the weeds, as no plowing, etc., are necessary. Coffee matures from October to January. Water power being abundant, it is used for running all machinery.
The annual output of the province of Chiriqui, which produces the bulk of the coffee, is approximately 4,000 sacks of 100 pounds each; all of which is produced in the Boquete district at present, as the coffee planted in the Bugaba section is still young and unproductive. The local supply does not meet the domestic demand; and instead of exporting, a great deal is imported from adjoining countries, although, there is a protective tariff of six dollars per hundred pounds.
The Guianas. Coffee has had a precarious existence in the Guianas. Plants are said to have been brought by Dutch voyagers from Amsterdam in 1718 or 1720. They flourished in the new habitat to which they were introduced, and in 1725 were carried from Dutch Guiana into the district of Berbice in British Guiana and into French Guiana. There the berry was a considerable success for a time; Berbice coffee especially acquiring a good reputation; and when Demerara was settled, coffee became a staple of that region.[Pg 236] Shortage of native labor, and the difficulty of procuring cheap and capable workers from outside the country, ultimately compelled the practical abandonment of the crop in all three sections, Dutch, French, and British. In British Guiana it is now grown mainly for domestic consumption, and the same is true of French Guiana, which also imports.
From the time of its introduction, about 1718, until about 1880, the only coffee grown in Surinam, or Dutch Guiana, was the Coffea arabica. It was not a bountiful producer, and with labor scarce and unreliable, its cultivation was expensive. Therefore experiment was made with the liberica plant. This proved to be very satisfactory, growing luxuriantly, producing abundantly, and requiring minimum labor in care. In 1918 some 16,000,000 pounds were produced.
Ecuador. Though not of great commercial importance, coffee in Ecuador grows on both the mainland and on the adjacent islands. The area planted to coffee is estimated at 32,000 acres having an aggregate of about 8,000,000 trees. The trees blossom in December, and the picking season is through April, May and June. Coffee ranks third in value among the exports of the country.
Peru. Although possessed of natural coffee land and climate, little has been done to develop the industry in Peru. A finely flavored coffee grows at an altitude of 7,000 feet, while that grown in the lowlands along the Pacific coast is not so desirable. Such small quantities as are grown are cultivated in the mountain districts of Choquisongo, Cajamarca, Perene, Paucartambo, Chaucghamayo, and Huanace. The Pacific-coast district of Paces-mayo also grows a not unimportant crop.
Bolivia. Comparatively little attention is given to coffee cultivation in Bolivia. Agricultural methods are crude, and are limited to cutting down weeds and undergrowth twice a year. The coffee is planted in small patches, or as hedges along the roads or around the fields of other crops. The first crop is picked at the end of one and a half or two years. The trees bear for fifteen to twenty years. The average yield is from three to eight pounds per tree. The best grades of coffee are grown at 2,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level.
Coffee is cultivated in the departments of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, El Beni, and Chuquisca. In the department of Santa Cruz there are plantations in the provinces of Sara, Velasco, Chiquitos and Cordillera. In the Yungas and the Apolobamba districts of La Paz, its cultivation reaches the greatest importance, but even there is not of large proportions.
Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina. Coffee is of minor, almost insignificant, importance in the agriculture of Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina. In Uruguay the climate is altogether unsuitable for it.
Argentina and Paraguay each have small growing districts. In the first named, only the provinces of Salta and Jujuy have, at the latest reports, a little more than 3,000 acres under cultivation. In Paraguay some householders have grown coffee in their yards solely for their own use. In the Paraguayan district of Altos, north of Asuncion, a small group of plantations was started before the outbreak of the World War, and produced about 300,000 pounds of coffee in a year.
Ceylon. Coffee planting in Ceylon was an important industry for a century, until the so-called Ceylon leaf disease attacked the plantations in 1869, and a few years later had practically destroyed all the trees of the country. Although coffee raising has continued since then, there has been, especially since the beginning of the twentieth century, a steady decline in acreage. There were 4,875 acres under cultivation in 1903, 2,433 acres in 1907, 1,389 in 1912, and 941.5 in 1919. Only 2,200 pounds were produced in 1917. However, the climate and soil of Ceylon seem adapted to coffee culture, and the experimental stations at Peradeniya and Anuradhapura have been experimenting in recent years with robusta, canephora, Ugandæ, and a robusta hybrid for the purpose of reviving the industry in the country.
Ceylon is one of the oldest coffee-growing countries, the Arabs having experimented with it there, according to legend, long before the Portuguese seized the island in 1505. The Dutch, who gained control in 1658, continued the cultivation, and in 1690 introduced more systematic methods. They sent a few pounds in 1721 to Amsterdam, where the coffee brought a higher price than Java or Mocha. However,[Pg 237] it was not until after the British occupied the island in 1796, that coffee growing was carried on extensively. The first British-owned upland plantation was started in 1825 by Sir Edward Barnes; and for more than fifty years thereafter coffee was one of the island's leading products. An orgy of speculation in coffee growing in Ceylon, in which £5,000,000 sterling are said to have been invested, culminated in 1845 in the bursting of the coffee bubble, and hundreds were ruined. The peak of the export trade was reached in 1873, when 111,495,216 pounds of coffee were sent out of the country. Even then, the plantations were suffering severely from the leaf disease, which had appeared in 1869; and by 1887, the coffee tree had practically disappeared from Ceylon. Ceylon's day in coffee was a cycle of fifty-odd years.
French Indo-China. Coffee culture in French Indo-China is a comparatively small factor in international trade, although production is on the increase, particularly from those plantations planted to robusta, liberica, and excelsa varieties. The average annual export for the five-year period ended with 1918 was 516,978 pounds, nearly all of it going to France.
The first experiments with coffee growing were begun in 1887, near Hanoi in Tonkin. The seeds were of the arabica variety, brought from Réunion, and the production from the first years was distributed throughout the country to foster the industry. Eventually arabica was found unsuitable to the soil and climate, and experiments were begun with robusta and other hardier types.
A survey of the industry of the country in 1916 showed that the plant was being successfully grown in the provinces of Tonkin, Anam, and Cochin-China, and that altogether there were about 1,000,000 trees in bearing. The plantations are mostly in the foot-hills of the mountain ranges or on the slopes, although a few are located near the coast line at 1,000 feet, or even less, above sea-level.
The larger and more successful plantations follow advanced methods of planting and cultivating, while the government maintains experimental stations for the purpose of fostering the industry. It is believed that French Indo-China in coming years will assume an important position in the coffee trade of the world, particularly as a source of supply for France.
Federated Malay States, Including Straits Settlements. Rubber has been the chief cause of the decline of coffee industry in the Federated Malay States. Since the closing years of the nineteenth century coffee has been steadily on the downward path in acreage and production, with the possible exception of parts of Straits Settlements, which in 1918 exported, mostly to England, some 3,500,000 pounds of good grade coffee. The other sections of the federation shipped less than 1,000,000 pounds.
In the early days, planters of the Malay Peninsula knew little about proper methods of cultivating, and depended mostly upon what they learned of the practises in Ceylon, which, unfortunately for them, were not at all suited to the Malay country. They secured their best crops from lowlands where peaty soil prevailed, and eventually all the coffee grown on the peninsula came from such regions.
Liberica is mostly favored, and is grown with some success as an inter-crop with cocoanuts and rubber. The robusta variety has also been introduced, but does not seem to do as well as the liberica. Between 2,300 and 2,600 acres, according to recent returns, have been under coffee as a catch-crop with cocoanuts, out of a total of 40,000 acres in cocoanut estates. One planter has been reported as making quite a success with this method of inter-cropping for coffee, but it is not generally approved.
There has been a general decline in acreage, product, and exports since the closing years of the nineteenth century, until now the industry is regarded as practically at a stand-still and likely so to remain as long as rubber shall continue to hold the commercially high position to which it has attained. Unsatisfactory prices realized for the crop, poor growth of the trees in some localities, and the gradual weakening of the trees under rubber as they mature, are offered as the principal explanations of this decrease in acreage. Nearly all the Malay crop in recent years has been grown in Selangor, though Negri Sembilan, Pahang, and Perak continue as factors in the trade.
Australia. Although Australia is a prospective coffee-growing country of large natural possibilities, the Australian Year Book for 1921 states that Queensland is the one state in which experiments have been tried, and that in 1919–20 there were only twenty-four acres under cultivation. Queensland soils are of volcanic origin, exceptionally rich, and support[Pg 239] trees that are vigorous and prolific with a bean of fine quality. The arabica is chiefly cultivated, and the trees can be successfully grown on the plains at sea-level as well as up to a height of 1,500 or 2,000 feet. The trees mature earlier than in some other countries. Planted in January, they frequently blossom in December of the next year, or a month later, and yield a small crop in July or August; that is, in about two years and a half from the time of planting. The bean closely resembles the choice Blue Mountain coffee of Jamaica. For coffee cultivation the labor cost is almost prohibitive.
As much as fifteen hundred-weight of beans per acre have been gathered from trees in North Queensland; and for years the average was ten hundred-weight per acre. After thirty years of cultivation, no signs of disease have appeared. At late as 1920, the government was proposing to make advances of fourteen cents a pound upon coffee in the parchment to encourage the development of the industry to a point where it would be possible for local coffee growers to capture at least the bulk of the commonwealth's import coffee trade of 2,605,240 pounds.
Coffee grows well in most all the islands of the Pacific Ocean, and in some of them, as in the Philippines and Hawaii, the industry in past years, reached considerable importance.
Hawaii. Coffee has been grown in Hawaii since 1825, from plants brought from Brazil. It has also been said that seed was brought by Vancouver, the British navigator, on his Pacific exploration voyage, 1791–94. Not, however, until 1845 was an official record made of the crop, which was then 248 pounds. The first plantations, started on the low levels, near the sea, did not do well; and it was not until the trees were planted at elevations of from 1,000 to 3,000 feet above sea-level that better returns were obtained.
Coffee is grown on all the islands of the group, but nowhere to any great extent except on Hawaii, which produces ninety-five percent of the entire crop. Next in importance, though far behind, is the island of Oahu. On Hawaii there are four principal coffee districts, Kona, Hamakua, Puna, and Olaa. About four-fifths of the total output of the islands is produced in Kona. At one time there were considerable coffee areas in Maui and Kauai, but sugar cane eventually there took the place of coffee.
The Kona coffee district extends for many miles along the western slope of the island of Hawaii and around famous Kealakekua Bay. The soil is volcanic, and even rocky; but coffee trees flourish surprisingly well among the rocks, and are said to bear a bean of superior quality.
Coffee trees in Kona are planted principally in the open, though sometimes they are shaded by the native kukui trees. They are grown from seed in nurseries; and the seedlings, when one year old, are transplanted in regular lines nine feet apart. In two years a small crop is gathered, yielding from five to twelve bags of cleaned coffee per acre. At three years of age the trees produce from eight to twenty bags of cleaned coffee per acre, and from that time they are fully matured. The ripening season is between September and January, and there are two principal pickings. Many of the trees are classed as wild; that is, they are not topped, and are cultivated in an irregular manner and are poorly cared for; but they yield 700 or 800 pounds per acre. The fruit ripens very uniformly, and is picked easily and at slight expense.
It is calculated that in the Hawaiian group more than 250,000 acres of good coffee land are available and about 200,000 acres more of fair quality. Comparatively little of this possible acreage has been put to use. According to the census of 1889, there were then 6,451 acres devoted to coffee, having, young and old, 3,225,743 bearing trees. The yield, in that census year, was 2,297,000 pounds, of which 2,112,650 pounds were credited to Hawaii, the small remainder coming from Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and Molokai.
A blight in 1855–56 set back the industry, many plantations being ruined and then given over to sugar cane. After the blight had disappeared, the plantations were re-established, and prosperity continued for years. Following the American occupation of the islands in 1898, came another period of depression. With the loss of the protective tariff that had existed, prices fell to an unremunerativte figure; and the more profitable sugar cane was taken up again. After 1912, the increased demand for coffee, with higher prices, led again to hopes for the future of the industry. Planting was encouraged; and it has been demonstrated that from lands well selected and intelligently cultivated it is possible to have a yield of from 1,200 to 2,100 pounds per acre. Improvements have also been made in pulping and milling facilities. Many of the plantations are cultivated by Japanese labor.
Exports of coffee from Hawaii to the principal countries of the world in 1920 were 2,573,300 pounds.
Philippine Islands. Spanish missionaries from Mexico are said to have carried the coffee plant to the Philippine Islands in the latter part of the eighteenth century. At first it was cultivated in the province of La Laguna; but afterward other provinces, notably Batangas and Cavite, took it up; and in a short time the industry was one of the most important in the islands. The coffee was of the arabica variety. In the middle of the eighteenth century, and after, the industry had a position of importance; several provinces produced profitable crops that contributed much to the wealth of the communities where the berry was cultivated. In those days the city of Yipa was an important trading center. In the period of its prime Philippine coffee enjoyed fine repute, especially in Spain, Great Britain, and China (at Hong Kong), those three countries being the largest consumers. At one time—in[Pg 242] 1883 and 1884—the annual export was 16,000,000 pounds, which demonstrates the importance of the industry at the peak of its prosperity. The leaf blight appeared on the island about 1889, causing destruction from which there has not yet been complete recovery. The export of 3,086 pounds in 1917 shows the depths into which the industry had fallen.
The Bureau of Agriculture at Manila announced in 1915 that an effort was to be made to re-habilitate the coffee industry of the islands. Nothing came of the effort, which died a-borning. Since then, several attempts to introduce disease-resisting varieties of coffee from Java have failed because of lack of interest on the part of the natives.
Despite the misfortunes that have overwhelmed it in the past and are now retarding its growth, it is still believed that the industry in these islands may be re-habilitated. Conditions of soil and climate are favorable; land and labor are cheap, abundant, and dependable: railroads run into the best coffee regions, and good cart roads are in process of construction. Some plantations of consequence are still in existence, and serious consideration is being given to their development and to increasing their number.
Guam. Coffee is one of the commonest wild plants on the little island of Guam. It grows around the houses like shade trees or flowering shrubs, and nearly every family cultivates a small patch. Climate and soil are favorable to it; and it flourishes, with abundant crops, from the sea-level to the tops of the highest hills. The plants are set in straight rows, from three and a half to seven feet apart, and are shaded by banana trees or by cocoanut[Pg 243] leaves stuck in the ground. There is no production for export, scarcely enough for home consumption.
Other Pacific Islands. Other islands of the Pacific do not loom large in coffee growing, though New Caledonia gives promise as a producer, exporting 1,248,024 pounds in 1916, most of which was robusta. Tahiti produces a fair coffee, but in no commercial quantity. In the Samoan group there are plantations, small in number, in size, and in amount of production. Several islands of the Fiji group are said to be well adapted to coffee, but little is grown there and none for export.